The Borders Books on East Liberty Street has scheduled three mandatory all-store meetings in November after employees announced that they are seeking representation by local union UFCW 876. A majority of the store’s workers have authorized the UFCW 876 as the exclusive representative of all such employees for collective bargaining.
Borders operates over 390 Borders stores domestically, 800 Waldenbooks stores, 29 international Borders stores and 37 stores in the United Kingdom The store in Ann Arbor was the first opened. So far, only one Borders store, in Minneapolis, has unionized. In the ’90s, three stores had contracts negotiated by the UFCW. But these contracts were not renewed.
Today, several flyers posted outside the store read, “Why have the employees of Borders Books at 612 E. Liberty formed a union? Eroding benefits; layoffs and demotions; huge cuts in payroll that have effected our staffing level tremendously.”
Jaime Dunlap, a Borders employee, said he agrees with the flyers’ statements.
“Principally, it’s job security and the fact that we think that the company needs to be held more accountable in the way it treats people,” he said. “There was a woman here who had been here for about a third of her life and they eliminated her position and said you can take this step down and it means a substantial pay cut, that was the only way they were willing to keep her, so she left. Several other good people have left, thinking that that was the handwriting on the wall.”
A major complaint of Borders workers is poor attitudes in management. “Another part of it is respect for the employees. Sometimes we get treated like we’re children, and we’re not,” Dunlap said. “One of the big things that they fall back on with the pay thing is, well, the economy is in a slump. You know, we’re adults, we know that. We pay taxes. We watch the news.”
Low salary increases also perturb the workers. “I’ve been here for two years and since I’ve started here I’ve gotten 63 cents in pay increases. I pay 50 dollars a month for the privilege of parking my car … and I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Dunlap said.
One worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said she supports the rights of workers who want to unionize. “If the majority of the workers feel that there is a need for a union, I don’t have a problem with that. I know that sometimes people can loose health benefits in negotiation, which is kind of scary for me.”
But Borders Group, Inc. Corporate Affairs Counsel Anne Roman offered a different perspective. “Overall, throughout the company, turnout is down drastically. Staffing levels at stores are determined based on sales volume,” Roman said.
“Borders takes seriously the input of our employees and has always encouraged open and direct communication between employees and their managers as well as the senior management of the company. We provide a very open environment.”
“By the same token, the company has a right to communicate to employees that we do not believe union representation is necessary,” she said, adding that Borders offers employees broad based stock options and a 401K savings plan.
Other benefits employees receive include a vision plan, dependent life insurance plan, domestic partner benefits and the established Borders Group Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists employees in time of need, Roman said.